Monday, June 6, 2011

Panama Canal

The Panama canal has been described as one of the wonders of the world, and it sure is impressive. We went one day to see the Miraflores locks and look at the visitor centre and then on Saturday the 4/6/11 we went on a boat trip up the canal through the locks. I could write lots about how the French started it and lost 22,000 lives before pulling out in the 1880. How the Americans took over the construction in 1903 choosing this root over Nicaragua as the Panamanians were willing to grand the US sovereignty over the canal area if they backed their independence from Columbia where Nicaragua wasn't about to give there country away. But you can find out all about that if you want, I'll just show you some pictures: From the Pacific side you pass under the Puente de las Américas and travel up to the 2 Miraflores locks before entering the Miaflores lake and onto the Pedro Miguel lock before entering the Culebra cut under the new Centennial bridge. Ships are raised a total of 85ft up to the height of the Gatun lake and on the Caribbean side they are lowered the same amount through the Gatun Locks. So now you see them and now you don't. The size of the ships, although not that big by today’s standards, are still very impressive close up. We rafted up alongside a tug boat following a container vessel to get through the locks. the lock gates close, each weighing about 700 tons, and 28million gallons of water are let in in the next 8 minutes to lift you up to the next level.
The large boat are held in place by mules, electric engines that follow the ship holding it central. You leave and the next one is ready to come through. Ships go through the locks one way for 12 hours and then the other way for the next 12, 365 days a year. But without the row boat it wouldn't work as the warps are taken across to the ships by it. They are continually dredging the canal and our guide said they had removed 5 times as much from dredging since the canal opened than was originally dug out to keep the ships floating. We disembarked from the Fantasia del Mar at Gamboa and rather sun burnt travelled back to the city by coach.

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